St. Benedict has a long history in Fontana, WI, on the shores of beautiful Geneva Lake.

On December 18, 1912, Father Pierce, pastor at St. Catherine’s in Sharon  met with Catholics in the Fontana and Walworth area… 20 women and 10 men …about the possibility of Mass being said in their area on Sundays. Mass was said in Woodman Hall, Walworth, at the now named Mill St. and Fontana Ave. on January 1, 1913, with about 50 people present.  This was eleven years before Fontana became its own incorporated village. Mass was said there the following Sunday and then it was decided to find some place which they could rent on a regular basis.

Early Fontana history relates that winter Catholic services were held in the home of William Finley, 156 Third Avenue from 1912 until the church was built. Summer Masses were said in the lake shore pavilion.

The first recorded baptism for St. Benedict’s Church is that of Antonius Matthias Borg on May 19, 1912, with Father Pierce celebrating the ceremony.

On March 10, 1915, Rev. Thomas Pierce signed the articles of incorporation of St. Benedict’s Church. It was also signed by Archbishop Sebastian G. Messmer and W. H. Finley as secretary of the congregation. Mr. Finley and Eugene Sullivan were listed in the document as “laymen and practical communicants of the congregation.” It was recorded at the courthouse on March 10, 1915, 2:00 p.m.

Property for building a church in Fontana on Third Street was purchased in 1915. The deed was recorded at the Courthouse in 1916.  According to a long-time parishioner, the men of the congregation built the church.  It was completed in 1916.

Father Pierce served the congregation from 1912 until 1924 when Father James E. Kelly came for the next ten years. The Parish Hall was built in 1926/27 just to the east of the church.

Father Arthur Kelly came in 1952; at first he assisted Father Peil. Then in August, 1952 he was named pastor and first resident priest of St Benedict.  St. Benedict received a decree as a parish on January 1, 1954 from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Up until August 1952 it had continued as a mission church of St. Catherine’s.

Father Kelly began a plan for building a new church which would accommodate the growing congregation. On Sundays Father Kelly would open the church windows so the overflow crowd which stood outside could hear the mass.

Property on which the present church is built on Dewey Ave. was purchased from Harold Douglass in 1954.  Construction began March 21, 1960 and was completed on March 21, 1961.

Architects for the church were John Flad and Associates of Madison. The general contractor was T. S. Willis Construction Company of Janesville. Interior design was developed and executed by the Studios of Potente, Inc. of Kenosha.

The Solemn Dedication took place on May 30, 1961 with Archbishop William Cousins presiding and Father Arthur Kelly saying the mass.  The deacon was Rev. Joseph E. Bidwill O.P.  The first Mass in the new church was celebrated on Tuesday, March 21st, 1961.

Father Kelly died suddenly on February 24, 1980 while at St. Benedict. Father James Schlaffer became interim pastor until a permanent one could be named. On July 4, 1980, Father Joseph Zeihen became pastor. He served until his retirement on June 22, 1996.  In July Father Zeihen began the practice of having extraordinary ministers help distribute Communion.  Lectors were scheduled to do the readings. Father Zeihen asked Sister Florence Russ to come to St. Benedict to organize the Religious Education classes.

Father Peil came to live at St. Benedict on November 2, 1980. He assisted Father Zeihen as much as his health allowed.  Father Peil died on April 27, 1985 at the age of 80.

In June 1988 it was reported that they were currently furnishing the education center rooms.  In August work started on the pipes for the organ.

Father Robert Stiefvater became a part of the parish family when he came in the spring of 1995 to be the first Coordinator of the Walworth County Spanish Ministry. In April it was announced that Bishop Sklba appointed Father Stephen J. Stradinger, pastor at St. Benedict effective June 18, 1996.  Father Zeihen retired on June 18, 1996.

Father Steve left the parish on July 27 1999..  Father Charles Wheatley was named the temporary Administrator.  In February 2000 we welcomed Father Daniel J. Sanders to the parish who served until June, 2011.

We welcomed Father Norberto J. Sandoval to our parish the weekend of June 25/26.

Father Norbie’s last official day was Sunday, April 6, 2014.

Father Gary Nowicki, and Father Dominic Thomas served as temporary administrators until continued as our temporary parish administrator.

In 2017 we welcomed our current pastor, Father Mark Danczyk and our then associate pastor, Father Sergio Lizama.


1915 –   Father Thomas Pierce

1924 –   Father James E. Kelly

1934 –   Father James F. Manley

1940 –   Father Stephen Peil

1952 –   Father Arthur Kelly

1980 –   Father James Schlaffer (interim)

1980 –   Father Joseph Zeihen

1995 –   Father Robert Stiefvater, Spanish Ministry

1996 –   Father Steve Stradinger

1999 –   Father Charles Wheatley (interim administrator)

2000 –   Father Daniel Sanders

2011 –   Father Norberto Sandoval (administrator)

2012 –   Father Norberto Sandoval – installed as pastor 10-28-12

2013 –   Father Gary Nowicki (temporary administrator)

2015 –   Father Dominic Thomas (temporary administrator)

2017 –   Father Mark Danczyk

Submitted by Ginny Hall